The Traveling Encyclopedia Salesman, The Escape

Read the first part of his journey to St. Luis at, https://thenumber26.net/2019/04/26/the-traveling-encyclopedia-salesman-clutching-at-odds/

    In any escape, it’s nice to have options, different routes, plans, a plethora of different choices to choose from. In this situation, so far as I can see, the possibilities are minimal.

   My situation is dire. And the situation is this, my bus is parked at the final stop, the end of the road if you will, the symbolism of which is not wasted on me, at the St. Luis central bus terminal. There are five- never mind six- huge, burly, mean-looking men, who I can only assume are armed to the teeth, right outside the bus. And they’re undoubtedly looking for me, or at least, given the number of people I owe money too, I can only assume they are.

    I’m always amazed by how upset people get over something as trivial as money. In my experience money comes and goes like the seasons. One second you’re rich, and the next, snap, you’re just not anymore. There’s no point in chasing after it after it’s gone.

    It’s impossible for me to know who sent who after me these days, over the years I have accumulated a good deal of enemies. The question now is, is this the kind of enemy that wants me dead, or alive. This’s a question I don’t plan on finding the answer.

An escape from a bus is always tricky because there’s only way off a bus- the stairs. It’s easy for them to scan the faces of the men and women as they step down. Any attempt to shield your face will only increase suspicion. Needless to say, they have the upper hand.

An escape like this has only happened to me once before, and that was years ago, in Boston, and I had to disguise myself in the tiny bus bathroom as a woman. I came out looking like someones awful first attempt at drag, but I didn’t look like myself, which was the point. It was terrific it actually worked, and it was a miracle I just happened to have stolen a bunch of pricey makeup from the girl I spent the night with before.

The bus quickly empties as the passengers orderly get off. I stay seated shielding my face from the window.

Hopeless, I do what any sensible person would do, I close my eyes and curl up into the fetal position under the seat. They’ll have to drag my unhelpful dead weight out of this bus by force, it will be tedious and exhausting for them. My final act of defiance!

I always wanted to be a bus driver. As a little boy, I had a toy bus with no wheels. I snapped the wheels off myself. I only had broken toys growing up. There was a neighborhood bully who used to break all the toys, or if they were too nice to break, he would steal it for himself. I beat him in the end by breaking all the toys in the neighborhood myself before he could get to them.

Funny what one thinks of just before they get dragged off a bus and executed in the street.

I hear the pleasant sound of a trickling stream.

The sound brings me back to reality. I open my eyes. Where is that sound coming from? There’s no trickling stream here. I slowly lift my head and peak up and down the bus aisle. The bus is empty now.

Where is that trickling sound coming from!

I hear the groan of a man coming from the lavatory. The bus driver! I laugh, it’s not a stream; it’s the driver taking a piss. He must have walked right past me while I was curled up sucking my thumb under the seat cherishing the last moments of my miserable life.

What. An. Imbecile.

The fool left the bus running. Completely against code and policy on his part. Anyone could just drive off with this bus. He brought this on himself.

I wedge the shaft of an old broomstick between the knob of the lavatory and the facing wall.

I sprint to the front of the bus and throw myself into the bus seat. In my periphery, I notice a great big monstrous man a few steps from the staircase. I snap the doors shut with a flick of my wrist on the handle.

The man looks up at the new bus driver in surprise. We lock eyes. I recognize this man, he works for a Mr. Gardenia. A man I “cheated” in a straight game of poker a couple months ago. In my defense, if you don’t want people hiding aces up their sleeves, you should request everyone play naked.

Well, I’ve got an ace up my sleeve today too. This Ace is a big solid bus door with the number 26 closed on his moronic face.

I wink and give him the finger. Not the middle finger- that would be needlessly profane. My right index finger, where I’ve got the ring I slipped off his hand months ago while he was throwing me out of the Casino.

“Son-of-bitch!” He yells as he starts kicking and banging on the bus door. I laugh at his impotent rage as I shift the bus into first gear and slowly move away from the curb.

“Hey!” I hear the driver shout from the back. The lavatory door starts shaking. “What’s going on out there!”

“You brought this on yourself!” I shout back at him.

The burly angry man from outside pulls a giant revolver- a gun so big and shiny, and so long, I can only assume he must be compensating for something, and in his rage, he fires a round through the bus door.

The bullet narrowly misses my head. Shards of glass spray everywhere and a tiny shard shoots into my eye. It is harrowing. It hurts when I blink.

The fool should never have fired the gun in a place as public as the central bus station. It creates an immediate commotion. The perfect distraction necessary for someone to ride off with a bus.

I shout out the bus window, “Terrorists!”

The next thing I know everyone’s ducking for cover, running for the exits, the station’s security team are all running towards the giant man with the revolver.

No one suspected that at the moment a bus was being commandeered.

The last thing I see of the fool out of my rearview mirror as the bus pulls out into the main street is a good samaritan tackling him to the ground, he’ll probably be hailed as a national hero and given the key to St. Luis tomorrow.

I’ve never driven a bus before, and it takes some getting used to. Obviously, as I am on the run, I don’t have the time to get used to it. The steering wheel is obnoxiously large, it’s like trying to spin a giant barrel around and around. I stall the engine a few times as I try to put some distance between the station and me.

I pull over at some random bus stop in the middle of the city.

An old woman approaches from the bus stop shelter. I pop open the door and glass shards scatter on the road.

“Oh my, um, Excuse me, sir,” she slowly steps around all the broken glass everywhere, “Oh my. Goodness, what a mess. Well, um, is this the bus to the Central West End?”

“Sorry about the mess madam,” I tell her while rubbing my right eye, trying to get that excruciating glass fragment out. “We had a, um, minor technical difficulty with the door at the Central Station.”

“Oh my.” She says while looking at all the damage.

“Let me out of here please!” The bus driver in the back shouts through the door.

“The bus driver will be with you shortly, he just popped down to the lavatory in the back,” I tell the old woman.

I give the coin collection box a few good kicks with my boot until the small metal door on its side clicks open, and coins pour out and scatter down the bus stairs and out on the street.

“Ooh my.” said the old woman, now looking very confused.

“Please don’t be considered. I’m from the main office down at the central station. This is all normal protocol.”

“What is happening?”

The shouting coming from the bus’s rear continues, “Please! I’m begging you! Let me out!”

I hear police sirens in the distance. But I know the bus hasn’t been reported stolen, they’re all being called into the central station a few blocks away. The perfect distraction.

“Don’t be concerned madam” I tell her while shoveling the coins mixed with tiny fragments of glass off the stairs and into my coat pockets. An honest days work for an honest days pay.

“Who are you, and what’s going on!” she says, obviously very distraught.

I kiss her on the cheek, “I’m just a traveling encyclopedia salesman.” I tell her.

“Can anyone hear me!” Cries the driver from the back.

“Oooh my,” she says.

I quickly turn and storm off down the street. My pockets are jingling. I sprint down the sidewalk frantically, pushing and shoving people out of my way.

A homeless man asks me for spare change as I jingle by him leaving a trail of coins behind me.

“Get a job you lazy bum!” I shout over my shoulder at him just before turning and leaping into an alleyway.

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